Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Social Work


School of Social Work

First Reader/Committee Chair

James Simon


Child psychological, emotional maltreatment (CPEM) presents to the social work profession as one of the most challenging to detect, prevent and intervene. The consequences of CPEM have been equally devastating to a child’s development compared to all other forms of childhood maltreatment. The purpose of this study is to assess graduate social work students’ knowledge of CPEM as a determinant of their clinical preparedness to work with families in practice. The rationale for this study is to explore how the lack of focus on CPEM in university education, field experience, and field supervision impacts a social worker’s ability to prioritize the right of every child to live free from abuse.

The research method used for this study involved a quantitative exploratory design with a self-reported survey developed by the researcher. The survey was distributed and administered through a Qualtrics link and was open to a convenient sample of all graduate social work students enrolled in the MSW program. The independent variables included clinical comfort, clinical preparedness, and education/field experiences. The dependent variable was the level of knowledge of CPEM as demonstrated through a vignette score. Pearson correlations were evaluated for significant relationships. The most significant findings of this research were that MSW students’ knowledge of CPEM was related to their experiences with assessing the level of trauma in CPEM exposed children.

The implication of this study is to develop a globally accepted and uniform definition of CPEM. In addition, the academic curriculum should be expanded to address the full scope of CPEM by integrating clinical reasoning and decision-processing early in the curriculum layout. Furthermore, field agencies and supervisors should adopt leadership roles for learning and disseminating knowledge about CPEM. Accommodation for future research regarding CPEM would include the development of a specific screening tool for early detection of CPEM in children.